Dreary rainy or wintry days seem to bring out the moodiness in us all. Sunshine, on the other hand, seems to clear up our brains and allow us to learn and memorize easier. Is this an individual phenomena or is something going on in our brains that allows for variations in weather to affect our memory and brain function?

I have always wondered, if those in cold-weather areas have to endure gloom for more than three months a year, and those in warm-weather areas have more sunshine, does that mean the memory of the cold-weather people is not as strong as that of warm-weather people?

There is such a thing as seasonal affective disorder (SAD – appropriate acronym isn’t it?), which causes depression when there is limited exposure to sunlight during winter months. Research has shown that over half of the people who normally do not experience depression have some degree of SAD symptoms during the winter months. Just think of how excited and anxious your get when signs of Spring appear and you want to get out, plan warmer weather activities and act more chipper.

According to Psychological Science, SAD doesn’t actually change your mood, but it can impact cognitive functions such as memory and our ability to be more mobile. Winter makes us want to hibernate and stay inside under a warm blanket, while Spring and Summer get our juices flowing and the desire to get up and go.

The article in Psychological Science revealed a study that found that students who were the subject of the experiment improved their mood and memory performance when the weather was better, especially on days when sunshine was bright and clear. In an experimental manipulation, the subjects who took a memory assessment indoors performed worse than students who took the same test outdoors on a warm, sunny day.

From this the research suggests there is indeed a link between warm weather, sunshine and better memory and learning performance versus cold weather and overcast skies and reduced cognitive skills.

Researchers at Luminosity.com decided to see if this study was correct. They turned to their own database of cognitive performance to check out the effects of the seasons on the performance of those who played Lumosity games. They looked at the scores from the popular free game “Memory Matrix” on their website. They used the scores from adults in North America, as a control against seasonal differences in daylight and weather in the Southern Hemisphere.

What they found was that members who started their games in the winter months (December through February) had significantly lower initial scores than those who began in the nine other warmer weather months. What was surprising was that after just a few sessions those who started playing in the winter months improved their scores as much, or more, than those in other seasons. By the time the fifth training session came along the winter starters were at the same level or above across all the seasons.

This does go to show that, although research has linked bad weather to weaker mental performance memory and cognitive functions can significantly improve in any season.

I wonder, however, if the increase in scores in the winter was because the subjects used up more of their leisure time inside, so spent more time on learning and improving – as opposed to those in warmer seasons who got out more. (Just a thought, but perhaps something researcher could check into).

One positive note – winter does have an end and spring is just around the corner. Although the winter blahs may get you mentally foggy, research does indicate that you can enhance your memory and mental powers at any time – no matter what the weather.



About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.



Luminosity – Can Winter Weather Bring Down Brain Performance? http://www.lumosity.com/blog/winter-blues-slowing-you-down/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=RMKTG_SAD_High30to120_2012.02.19_Sun&utm_content=&ll_src=RMKTG_SAD_High30to120_2012.02.19_Sun&ll_ch=EMAIL&ll_u=16036761&spMailingID=5201161&spUserID=MTI3NzI5MjYwNzgS1&spJobID=194528117&spReportId=MTk0NTI4MTE3S0